Why Halo's Master Chief Is So Damn Empty

Gaming has characters with memorable personalities. But Master Chief, the protagonist of the Halo series, is a total void. And there's a reason for that.

According to the studio's lead writer Joseph Staten, "We left out details to increase immersion; the less players knew about the Chief, we believed, the more they would feel like the Chief."

This doesn't mean the character is boring, because that would imply he has his own personality. Rather, his personality is dependent on the player's, as Master Chief follows the events as they unfold in the game.

The Chief is one in a long line of silent gaming protagonists who are designed to make players feel like the character - and like a badass. "Immersion was the main goal here," adds Staten. "Also keeping the Chief a man of few words reinforced what we wanted to be a tough-as-nails soldierly persona."

Since Master Chief is not fleshed out in the games (allowing players to do that!), this lack of explicit characterisation caused roadblocks during the development of the proposed Halo flick. In fact, at one time during the since shuttered production, Master Chief was going to be relegated to a "supporting character".

"When it came to the Halo novels and other products of the expanded universe," says Staten, "immersion wasn't as important as deepening understanding." And in the game's what's most important is saving the universe singlehandedly.

Be Yourself (or Not): Halo [Industry Gamers via VG247]


    Talk about pounding the flesh of a horse carcass. How many times are video game journalists going to revisit the 'silent protagonist'?

    By now, I think everyone knows why the player characters are silent.

    BTW, I think Bungie did a great job with the few lines MC has in Halo:CE. I guess alot of the credit should go to the voice actor too.

    Dead Space 1 versus Dead Space 2 has cemented the argument for me- My immersion is increased if my character *does* speak, not if they're silent.

    You're in their head, controlling them, either way, but it's the difference between being immersed in the world of a actual character compared to just controlling a lifeless puppet and having things feel a bit off.

    I've never felt the silent protagonist is the better way to do things. They under-estimate how well people can empathise with a character and over-estimate how well we can empathise with a blank-slate.

    My favourite is how stupidly it blends in to the world with some games

    "oh gordon, you're so unresponsive and mute i really care for you"

    "Rather, his personality is dependent on the player’s, as Master Chief follows the events as they unfold in the game."

    I'm struggling with this. Being 'dependent' requires that players can actually influence the personality, as it is we just watch and shoot while the Chief says (almost literally) nothing. It's evident that when he does talk he's appropriately stoic and even gung-ho.

    Silent protagonists don't do anything for me, story-wise. Even giving the protagonist a text 'voice' (old-school RPGs, Dragon Age) gives us some control over 'our' character. As it is, an empty vessel is just... empty.

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